Nagaland: Is woman reservation policy really alien to Naga culture?
by TNT News - thenortheasttoday.com | Published: Saturday, January 14, 2017
Nagaland attained statehood
in 1963, but since then, it has not elected a single woman to its
Assembly. It has also only ever sent one woman to Parliament – Rano M
Shazia, who was elected to the Lok Sabha back in 1977.
This reality pervades through all levels of governance in the state.
village councils, formalised through the passage of the Nagaland
Village Councils Act 1978, have hardly any female representation. And
though laws have been enacted providing for 33% reservation of women in
municipal and town councils, their implementation has been halted, as a
result of which there is not a single woman in these bodies.
first glance, Naga women do not appear oppressed. You meet strong,
articulate women, well-known writers, poets, academics and activists.
also see women doing backbreaking work in the fields, carrying heavy
loads of firewood, cooking, cleaning, weaving or selling vegetables and
fruits in markets and by the roadside.
a Naga woman cannot call the field in which she works her own, or lay
claim to house she manages or even her kitchen garden. If it is
ancestral property, she is not entitled to inherit it.
only exception is acquired property – parents can gift their daughters
land. But after her death, that land will not go to her heirs; it will
be returned to her clan.
the women in Nagaland, then, the battle is two-pronged – for
representation in institutions of governance and for the right to
ways, the fight for representation in self-governing bodies is
symptomatic of the larger battle of Naga women against their society’s
inherently patriarchal traditional structures.
village councils predominantly consist of men who are selected by
villagers. They have powers to govern many aspects of village
development, including the use of development funds. In that regard,
they’re quite similar to panchayats. The big difference, though, is
that they are not elected bodies (in the way that panchayats are) and
they have hardly any women.
all villages have Village Development Boards (VDB) and a state law in
1980 stipulated that a quarter of their members should be women. Though
this provision has been implemented, the resistance to women entering
village councils continues.
the last few of years, a few village councils, mostly in Dimapur and
in Phek district in eastern Nagaland have taken a few women on board.
Tokheli Kikon, Chairperson of the Naharbari Village Council, is the
first and only woman so far to head a village council.
But these are the exceptions, not yet the norm.
those have found a place in the village councils, there is the
expectation that they can make a difference, even if there are only two
women in a council of 30 or more men.
Nagaland Assembly passed the Nagaland Municipal (First Amendment) Act
in 2006. This provided for 33% reservation of seats for women. But till
today, this cannot be implemented because men have argued that this
runs counter to customary law. And according to Article 371A of the
Constitution, Nagaland is exempt from any law that does not conform to
Nagaland Tribes Council however urged the Nagaland State Government to
review the “erroneous insertion” of 33% women reservation and conduct
fresh election without reservation at the earliest.
press note from the NTC stated that it is “disheartened to see the
much awaited municipality is again facing a murky situation because of
insensible and shabby handling by the government of the day.”
are no two opinions to say that the women reservation policy is alien
to Naga Culture. Reservation policy in India is meant for down trodden
people in the society. Whereas, there is no practice as such that
random depravation basing on gender in Naga Society.
position and status are rated and ascribed according to ones capacity
and achievements. Therefore, the make believe of certain section as
depraved or discriminate is an offence and against our custom. The very
concept of reservation is self defeating because it rather leads to
stigmatization of those sections as lesser souls,” the NTC stated.
decision to hold election amidst “strong people’s opposition,” it said
is “an imposition which will never carry the people’s mandate.”
reservation, the NTC stated is “against our time tested custom and
tradition,” and cautioned that if introduced would infringe Article 371
A of the constitution “whereby the Nagas of Nagaland are provided with
full guarantee to govern as per our custom and tradition.”
No amount of justification, it added, “will compensate the depravation of our rights and custom at this moment.”
debates on women’s rights do not make it to the so-called national
press as conflict and politics dominate the discourse. Yet, for the
future of Naga society, caught on the cusp between tradition and
modernity, the outcome of these struggles will be crucial.